There is a reason why we see, in popular films, books and TV, this sad story repeated over and over again: boy loves girl (or vice versa) with a clarity and purity that encompasses her whole self, and girl rejects said boy (or vice versa) for some clown who treats her like garbage. This dynamic is so common in real life that of course it must be reflected in our art; even if you have not been a participant in this particular love triangle, chances are huge that you know someone who has. So why is it human nature to reject true love in favor of a relationship that continually transmits to you the message that you are not worthy of it?
The obvious answer is the one we all know **in theory** but have a hard time accepting in practice: all of your relationships mirror the relationship you have with yourself. So if you don’t feel worthy of love, you will find someone who agrees with you and reinforces that belief. The person who loves you “as is” is suspect, because what kind of an idiot loves someone so worthless and flawed, right???
The truth is, we don’t necessarily WANT people who embrace us as we are, because we fear that will prevent us from becoming all we can be, whether we acknowledge this consciously or not. True love feels like a trap, something that ties us irrevocably to our insecurities and self-perceived mediocrity. Someone who rejects or belittles us keeps us hungry for their praise and chasing after the metaphorical last five pounds.
But we all know what happens then. The person who didn’t really love us five pounds heavier doesn’t love us five pounds lighter, either. They just set a new goal or standard and we climb back on the hamster wheel of approval to please them.
Can we understand why this attracts us? Can we forgive ourselves for being drawn into the hunt? Then can we let go of the need to live up to anyone’s standards but our own?
I had lunch with a friend recently who was telling me about some troubles at work and his wish to radically reframe that environment. When I inquired as to what his wife thought of his plans, he shrugged and said, “If I told her I was going to go in and shoot everybody, she’d just say ‘do whatever you think is best’.” It occurred to me that we are very uncomfortable with that sort of unconditional acceptance—what if we DID decide just to shoot everybody?
In spite of current events, the GOOD news is that 99.9% of us would never do such a thing; the BAD news is that an undoubtedly similar proportion of us don’t really want the responsibility of that level of trust. The reason being AGAIN that mirror: we don’t trust ourselves. The expression “absolute power corrupts absolutely” is so ubiquitous because many of us actually FEAR having power; we believe, as Charlie Chaplin is quoted as saying, “You need power only when you want to do something harmful, otherwise love is enough to get everything done.”
Sorry, Charlie (if he actually said that). Although I agree that the kind of person who abuses power is the kind of person who hungers for it, the more important point to be made is that love IS power. The very kind of love we push away, in fact. They say faith moves mountains, but I have seen love perform just as many miracles, when offered unconditionally.
Unfortunately, until you can practice radical self-acceptance, you cannot give or receive unconditional love. And radical self-acceptance is not simply the embracing of our totality, good, bad and indifferent; it is also learning to trust not only our abilities, but our instincts and desires as well. Retreating from shame, self-blame and judgment feels entirely unnatural to us; we have been taught these are vehicles of our “conscience” and that without them we will devolve into sociopathy.
Fear not; it is estimated that only 3-5% of us are actually sociopaths and you need to be both genetically predisposed and environmentally stimulated and for goodness sake if you are afraid of becoming a sociopath that is all the proof you need that it will NEVER HAPPEN.
It really is amazing to consider all the barriers society has thrown up to prevent us from becoming empowered by self-acceptance. It’s ***almost*** as if ***someone*** wants us to believe we are not “good enough” so that we will buy their products, services and advice in order to be worthy of love (or success. or happiness. or anything good at all.)
It’s ***almost*** as if we are in that dreaded love triangle with the very attractive cultural belief that we should let someone else make our decisions for us and the “small, still voice” that tells us that we are more than capable of handling things ourselves.
Okay, so back to the actual love triangle: yes, we will keep wanting the ones who tell us we aren’t good enough until we don’t believe them anymore. Frankly, often these people are instrumental in teaching us that chasing our tails for their amusement is not a worthy endeavor. So forgive yourself for the attraction—look at it as another step towards desiring healthy, reciprocal affection.
As we are learning to trust ourselves, we learn to trust the process as well…the glorious, flawed and bumpy road we travel to understand, as Dorothy would say, that there’s no place like home. Our goal is to be at home in our own skin, in our own soul; you will find yourself there and anywhere else you go.
When you accept who you are completely, you will no longer need the lessons of those who would reject and undermine you.
When you accept who you are completely, you realize the ability to love unconditionally is your superpower; a superpower that nothing of any real value can resist.
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